Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


Leave a comment

The Galapagos UNESCO Heritage Site in Danger

Galapagos islands at risk from climate change

Home to many rare species of plants and animals

“In 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

August 11, 2017—-The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador. There are 13 major islands in the group, in addition to dozens of smaller rock outcrops. They were discovered in 1535 by sailors engaged in exploration. These islands are a unique treasure on our Planet.

The Galapagos Islands have been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. When explorers first described the islands to people on returning to their home ports, most people did not believe the stories that were told.

The Galapagos Islands are significant for a variety of reasons. First, there is no other island ecosystem like it. They are home to many species of plants and animals not found anyplace else on the planet. The animals include blue footed boobies and marine iguanas. Second, it is the setting for the work of Charles Darwin in formulating the theory of evolution that was published as The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin visited the islands in the year 1835. At the time, the islands were known as Las Encantatas or the enchanted ones.

Galapagos Islands and climate change

Galapagos animals and plants are at risk due to global warming.

Climate Change is Altering Life on the Islands

Global warming has already raised the temperatures over the islands. The islands generally receive little rainfall. Parts of the islands depend on cool season fog to provide condensation for plants. Additional warming may eliminate this weather pattern which is the only source of moisture for vegetation is some areas. Increased rainfall that may come with a changing climate may also lead to the decline in many species of plants.

The warmer conditions are causing vegetation zones to move to higher elevations. The rising temperature is also affecting the ratio of males to females in some turtles. Warmer temperatures tend to produce more female offspring, a phenomenon that has been observed at different locations around the world.

The mean temperature of the surrounding ocean of the islands is rising. Like other regions that lie astride the equator, coral bleaching has now been observed to occur in the reefs around the islands. The bleaching is an indication of not only global warming of the atmosphere, but of the warming of the tropical oceans. While corals live in warm water they will not live in water that is even a few degrees above their optimum temperature range. As the ocean warms they are also expected to become more acidic. This will increase the rate at which minerals are dissolved from the reefs.

Sea level has been rising and is expected to rise even more. The only question is how much more it will rise. Estimates of sea level rise by 2100 vary  with the highest estimates rising 30 inches. Rising sea level may destroy many of the mangrove forests which are home to some unique species of birds including some species of finch.

Galapagos Islands and climate

Galapagos Islands are at risk due to climate change

Invasive Species

There is a second problem which may be a greater threat than climate change to the uniqueness of the islands. This is the introduction of plants and animals not native to the islands. It is believed there are now more than 1400 introduced species on the islands of which more than half are plants.

Many of the introduce species have been accidentally introduced. Probably among the first were rats, which jumped ship over the years. The rats thrived and the population grew rapidly. Many other species of insects and plants were probably introduced at the same time. The accidental introduction continues as other species of plants and animals come to the islands along with the importing of merchandise.

Other species of plants and animals have been deliberately introduced. Among the first were domestic goats. They were often kept aboard ship for the purpose of supplying meat and milk for a ship’s crew. On the Galapagos some of the goats escaped to become wild. Their numbers increased and they began devastating the natural vegetation. In recent years major programs to eliminate the goats have been initiated, especially on the smaller islands. In 2006, for example, a massive effort was mounted to eliminate some introduced species from several islands.

Largely due to problems related to the invasion of species, in 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline. This includes sea lions which depend on a declining food supply off shore. The changing of the plant communities is a threat to many native birds. Some of the very species of finches which were the foundation of Darwin’s theory of evolution are in danger of becoming extinct.

On the plus side, most native species are expected to survive if invasive species can be controlled. But again, additional climate warming may eliminate the weather pattern necessary for plant and animal survival!

The Galapagos Islands

Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/planetearthweekly/


Leave a comment

Gothenburg Sweden: Providing Sustainability through Green Bonds

Gothenburg, Sweden

Build sustainably with green bonds.

“Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions.”

By Linn Smith

August 6, 2017—–In the late 19th century Gothenburg developed into an industrial city. In 1987 the Minister of the Environment called parts of the city, “hell’s waiting room” which described the environment for the industrial part of the city, dirty and polluted. Chemicals were escaping into the environment and appearing in animals, fish and mother’s milk, increasing cancer risks and lowering the immune system of infants. This was the Gothenburg of yesterday!

From Industrial City to Climate Leader

Today, Gothenburg has transitioned from industrial city to a world climate leader. In 2013, it became one of the first cities in the world to issue Green Bonds. 

Bonds allow the public to invest sums of money. When a person purchases a bond they lend money to the issuer of the bond, in this case, the city of Gothenburg. In return investors are paid a specific interest rate. 

Green bonds are linked to solving our climate change disaster by providing the money necessary for a community to build sustainably. They are earmarked for environmental projects.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Go Green with Green Bonds

Building Sustainably with Green Bonds

Gothenburg offers Green Bonds to the public, which allows the city to borrow money from investors. With this money the city creates climate change projects that allow a transition from a polluted city to one of low carbon emissions and climate-resilient growth. Without the Green Bonds Gothenburg would have struggled with decisions on funding schools and daycare or moving the city toward sustainability.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg goes green with Green Bonds

Projects Funded by Green Bonds

Some of the projects funded by Green Bonds are:

• Large scale production of biogas, providing high efficiency in production and recycling of waste heat for district heating and electricity.
• Electric cars for city and companies, with 100% electric cars in the city fleet.
• Energy efficient traffic lights
• Sustainable housing. These buildings use green electricity. Estimation shows that the sustainable housing built so far will avoid 50-60 tons of Co2
emissions in the atmosphere annually.
• Tree planting. 1710 trees have been planted since the projects funded by Green Bonds started, with a focus on a green cityscape, which effects the
urban air quality and temperatures of nearby buildings.(See https://planetearth5.com/tag/heat-islands/)
• Sustainable transportation. Improvements to the city’s bicycle infrastructure. The city offers 1,000 bikes with 69 stations in the city to leave
your bike. You can pick up a bike, ride it to your destination and drop it off at the nearest station.
• A sustainable airport. All energy at the Gothenburg airport comes from renewable sources. Heat is generated by biomass boilers. There are also
charging stations for electric cars. Take off fees for airplanes are reduced for those with lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. 75%
of the airport shuttle buses run on RME, a biofuel made from rapeseed (related to canola oil.)
• The city’s SJ trains run entirely on renewable electricity from wind and hydro power.
• A sustainable port. Gothenburg is a coastal city. Ferries and ships which are docked in Gothenburg are encouraged to connect to an onshore power
supply, which is a source of clean energy. “Providing an onshore power supply for vessels at berth can result in significant environmental gains.
Carbon dioxide emission decrease substantially and emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitric oxide are reduced to a minimum. Onshore connections also
provide a quieter environment and cleaner working conditions.”
• The largest ultrafilter built in Scandinavia. City water is treated by ultrafilter to assure the highest quality of drinking water for its citizens.

Linking Investments to Green Projects

Green Bond investing has led to greater interest by citizens in the environment, plus it creates a link between investments and speeding up green projects. 

Other cities are following suit. Toronto issued Green Bonds to finance a heat, power and cooling solar plant. Johannesburg just issued green bonds to finance green projects that will reduce greenhouse emissions and contribute to a sustainable city.

The California Sustainability Alliance said it well. “Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions” and further influence the global greening of our planet!

Gothenburg-Green Bonds

Follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/planetearthweekly/


Leave a comment

Momentum for Change: Mapping for Rights

MappingForRights

Protecting our Rainforest!

“MappingForRights can improve how forests are protected and governed, making it easier to enforce illegal activities when needed.”

By Linn Smith
July 6, 2017—Momentum for Change is headed by the Climate Change branch of the United Nations. Its goal is to shine a light on the global activities which are moving the world toward a low-carbon future. It recognizes innovative solutions that address climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges. The solutions are called Lighthouse Activities. If you are leading a project with this objective you can apply to enter the yearly Momentum for Change Awards.

ForestLink

MappingForRights employs many women.

MappingForRights

MappingForRights is one of the winners for 2016. Specific attention is given to indigenous women, allowing them to be involved in this project. The system is based on enabling communities to map and monitor their lands through low-cost technologies, providing an online interactive map. It’s a project of the Rainforest Foundation UK and its partners in the Congo Basin.

MappingForRights puts indigenous communities on the map digitally, showing traditional lands and resources that are used to claim land rights. It also challenges harmful projects such as logging, by making all data available online, and by advocating for legal reforms. It provides communities with accurate printed maps of their lands, and allows indigenous community leaders to easily access this accurate geographical information about community lands, showing the allocation of the forests around their villages.

ForestLink

Forest Link helps monitor and protect our rainforest.

ForestLink

In 2015, the project launched ForestLink to monitor remote communities and to capture and transmit alerts on illegal logging anywhere in the world using a satellite. ForestLink shows an accurate report of illegal logging by timber or palm oil companies. The illegal activity can be collected using a tablet computer or smartphone and then transmitted to an online map via a satellite modem transmitter in as little as 20 seconds, costing about the same as a text message. This real-time monitoring of the forest transforms the way forest illegalities are documented and laws enforced, transmitting the location which leads to more targeted and effective forest protection.

Mapping for Rights

Protecting our rainforest in the Congo.

Rights of Indigenous People

MappingForRights secures the rights of the indigenous people, shifting responsibility to the local indigenous communities. The information gathered is stored in a central geographical database where it can be assessed and analyzed by experts or automatically re-broadcast for in-field verification. The reports can be searched for data related to the reports, such as name of companies involved in logging or type of infraction.

By 2017 it is expected that more than 700 communities in the Congo Basin will have mapped their lands through the MappingForRights program, mapping up to 6 million hectares (over 23,000 sq. miles) of forest land.

Protecting Our Rainforest

There is evidence that securing community rights to land and resources is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty, halt deforestation and reduce the harmful effects of climate change. This system can improve how forests are protected and governed, making it easier to enforce illegal activities when needed.

MappingForRights


Leave a comment

The Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund: Making a Difference

Sierra Club

Supporting our environment.

“A key part of the Sierra Club’s mission is to protect the quality of the human and natural environment.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

June 28, 2017—–Since President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement it has become more urgent for people of this country to become climate activists. There are many ways of supporting action to reduce global warming and the related problems. One of these is becoming a member of an active non-government organization (NGO). This adds your voice to those of many others and contributes to the power of the NGO. Following are two such organizations. I selected these two out of many for the reason that they both are celebrating anniversaries covering many decades. Both have responded strongly to President Trump’s actions to eliminate pollution controls in this country.

Sierra Club

May 28th of this year marked the 125th anniversary of the group. The Sierra club was founded by John Muir in 1892. The first Sierra Club Bulletin was published in 1893. Initially the organization was focused on protecting the mountains of California from wanton destruction by logging and mining. Soon the group became active in the establishment of our national parks. During the 1960’s the federal government was proposing the building of a series of dams on the Colorado River system. The Sierra Club was a leader in the fight to leave the river system in as natural state as possible.
I remember attending a water resources conference in one of the western states and watching the heated debate over the proposed plan. The federal plan was defeated and the government came down hard on the Sierra Club for its part in blocking the plan.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

In 2015, the Sierra Club was rated one of the top 15 most influential brands in Washington, DC. This was based on characteristics of integrity, influence, and respect by policy makers. The Sierra Club was the only environmental organization to make this list. It is now the largest and perhaps best known environmental organization with nearly three million members.

A key part of the Sierra Club’s mission is to protect the quality of the human and natural environment. It is also engaged in educating people on the nature of and problems in the natural environment. It has been actively involved in a number of campaigns related to its mission. Among them are the Beyond Oil and Beyond Natural Gas campaigns. On June 5th of this year, the Sierra Club and other groups filed a law suit against the Trump version of the EPA for weakening protections from oil and gas pollution.
Contact information for the Sierra Club:
http://www.SierraClub.org
Address: 2101 Webster Street, Suite 1300, Oakland CA 94612
Phone: 415-977-5500

Environmental Defense Fund

A fund for a clean environment.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the fund. In 1967 a small group of men gathered at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island to incorporate the fund. It was formed to challenge the use of the pesticide, DDT. Evidence was increasing that the widespread use of DDT was killing many species of birds. This included large birds of prey such as eagles, osprey and pelicans.

Brown Pelicans had all but disappeared on the coast of North Carolina along with much of America’s coastline. After six years of providing evidence of the hazard of DDT, William Ruckleshaus, then head of the Environmental Protection Agency, banned the use of DDT in the United States. Some other countries have now also eliminated the use of it, but it is still widely used worldwide and is still manufactured in the United States.

Environmental Defense fund

EDF: for a clean environment.

When I lived in Khartoum, Sudan, DDT was routinely sprayed in the gutters along the streets to keep down mosquitoes, but on the plus side, I am happy to report that now when I go to Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina I often see large flocks of brown Pelicans soaring overhead or skimming the waves.
Today the EDF is working on a variety of projects around the world in climate, ocean fisheries, ecosystems, and human health.
Contact information for the Environmental Defense Fund
http://www.edf.org
Address: 257 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, 10010
Phone: 1-800-684-3322


Leave a comment

Solar Uses in the West: Monitoring the Irrigation Ditch

solar water monitor

Solar monitors the flow of water.

“It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West.”

By Linn Smith

June 23, 2017—In the eastern section of the U.S., water is easily obtainable. In the west, where dry land prevails, water rights are taken seriously.

How is water diverted to arid land? Irrigation ditches are man made channels that deliver water to homes, farms or industries. They have head gates on creeks and water sources to divert water to these arid regions.

solar monitor

Monitor water flow through solar

Water Rights

In the West and Southwest U.S., a person diverting water through a canal needs legal rights, because there are many demands on the water between individuals, industries and cities. In the 1800’s miners depended on water rights for mining of gold and other minerals, and pioneers depended on water rights to irrigate crops far away from the stream.

Colorado developed the Prior Appropriation Doctrine which is still in use today. It states that, “The first person to divert water and apply it to a beneficial use has a prior or senior right to the water over any other user who seeks to use water at a later time.” This secures the amount and date of senior users. Water rights in Colorado are property rights and can be bought, sold or rented apart from the land through which they run, if the water is put to beneficial use.

In New Mexico a person needs to obtain a permit through the State Engineer Office. The office will evaluate and determine if water is available and would not impair existing water rights.

Solar

Solar monitors the flow of water in irrigation ditch

Irrigating

In New Mexico I helped surface irrigate (flood irrigate) a friend’s ranch from an irrigation canal, which ran above ground. Irrigating consisted of opening the irrigation gate by hand and allowing water from the canal to run over the horse pasture. We were able to control the amount of water on the pasture by sliding the gate down when the water was sufficient for healthy pasture growth. This has been the most common type of irrigation in most parts of the world.

solar for irrigation

The irrigation ditch runs through this horse pasture to keep it green and usable.

Solar Powered Water Moniters

Recently a solar monitor was added to an irrigation ditch nearby, which runs through farmland and continues to a large lake. The gate of the irrigation ditch was previously open and closed by hand, but now a solar monitor opens and closes the gate to prevent flooding from unused water in the ditch.

solar

Solar to monitor irrigation ditch

In an article, Solar-Powered Automation on Irrigation Delivery Systems, it states, “The most popular do it yourself solar automation model consists of a 1/16 inch horsepower gear motor, a bicycle-type lift apparatus, (chain and sprocket) and a cover over the gate stem which contains a gate position sensor and limit switches. The gate system is usually powered by 1 or 2 deep-cycle batteries which are charged by a 20-40 watt solar panel. The gear is attached to the 12 volt DC gear motor with an industrial chain.”

irrigation ditch

Water flows through irrigation ditch to lake

It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West, from pumping up groundwater for cattle to monitoring the amount of water in irrigation ditches. Again, sunshine prevails!

Solar!


1 Comment

Xeriscaping: A Step Towards a Healthier Planet

xeriscape

Xeriscaping can be combined with a traditional lawn

“What can we do to eliminate the stress our lawns create on the environment? Xeriscape!”

By Linn Smith

June 15, 2017—Spring is turning into summer soon and it’s time to think about our yards. It’s time to ask ourselves if we can continue our current practices of lawn upkeep and still protect the planet.

In May, I published an article, “The Origin of Lawns and their Environmental Impact.” In this article I stated the negative impact of keeping a lawn green. “Keeping turf from turning brown wastes water. People use too many pesticides and herbicides that contaminate the soil and water surrounding their lawns. Mowing burns fossil fuels. Also, we’re killing off our bee population, which you probably have heard by now, we need for pollinating the food we eat.”

It’s estimated by the EPA that lawn irrigation uses approximately 9 billion gallons of water daily, sending nitrogen from lawn fertilizers into our waterways. Also, millions of tons of pollutants are emitted into the air from lawnmowers.

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping with native plants reduces water needs.

What can we do to eliminate the stress our lawns create on the environment? Xeriscape! We can replace turf that requires an excessive amount of water with plants that can withstand drought conditions. Xeriscaping is a more creative and less toxic method of maintaining the land around our homes. It uses plants that require little water to maintain.

According to http://www.xeriscape.sustainablesources.com, there are 7 things to consider when xeriscaping:
1. Planning and Design
2. Soil Improvement
3. Appropriate Plant Selection
4. Practical Turf Areas
5. Efficient Irrigation
6. Use of Mulches
7. Appropriate Maintenance

xeriscaping

Drought tolerant plants use less water and are hardier.

Planning and Design

It’s not necessary to Xeriscape your entire lawn. You can decide how much you want to plant sustainably. Choose native plants and plants well adapted to your area. Native plants are already survivers of the climate you live in. Rama Nayeri of Creation Landscape Design says, “For almost every non-native plant there is an equally sustainable native option”—which also attract native wildlife.

Soil Preparation

Get rid of the existing grass or weeds. If you’re in a hot sunny area you can cover your turf with black plastic in the spring or early summer. Leave it in place for 4-6 weeks. You can then remove the plastic, leave the dead grass as compost and begin planting and turning over soil. There are excellent instructions in an article at https://conservationcenter.org/gardens/turf-removal-replacement-101/

xeriscaping

Use plants native to your area.

Appropriate Plant Selection

The plants you choose for xeriscaping depends on what climate you live in. In the Southwest cacti may be the answer, while in more moist climates, prairie plants may be the answer. In an article by Julie Martens Forney, “Xeriscaping Plants”, http://www.hgtv.com, she states, “Many homeowners mistakenly associate xeriscaping plants with a desert-style garden, featuring cacti, yucca and agave. The fact is that xeriscaping plants run the gamut, from classic drought-tolerant succulents, to prairie plants, to ornamental grasses.”

Most drought tolerant plants for your area would be plants native to your region. These are the original plants that graced your landscape before folks started digging them up! The website, Native Plant Finder, at http://www.nwf.org, will help you identify native plants to your area buy entering your zipcode.

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping requires less lawn care.

Practical Turf Areas

You can decide how much turf to leave for such purposes as play areas, pet areas and areas for sports. Designing these in a round shape can make for easier mowing and more efficient watering. Choose turf which requires the least amount of water.

You can talk to experts in greenhouses or your local university extension turf grass management program, which often offers free advice for home owners in lawn care.

Efficient Irrigation

To prevent over watering know how much water your plants/lawn need. The most effective way to water is to water deeply but not often.

Morning is the best time to water because evening waterings can invite fungus to grow overnight. Measure rain with a gauge. If you get 1 inch or more skip the watering. You can attach a rain sensor or moisture sensor to your sprinkler system to shut it off. Use a rain barrel to harvest water for plants that you water by hand.

A study found that homes with sprinkler systems used 35% more water than other homes. It found that most people with irrigation systems use “a set it and forget it” method. The study states that without proper scheduling and use of sensors, a sprinkler system is extremely wasteful. If you have 1/4  acre you could end up using 6,000 gallons of water to get a one inch deep watering.

A sensor by Toro has 2 prongs that measure the moisture of the soil and shuts down the sprinkler system if water isn’t needed. This method can use up to 40% less water. The Toro 53812 Xtra Smart Soil Moisture Sensor sells on Amazon for $126, or you can shop around because there are other moisture sensors available online.

Use of Mulches

Mulches are used around plants to hold the moisture in the ground. They can consist of bark chips, straw, compost, gravel, rocks or a plastic fabric sheet. Whatever kind you choose, it should allow water and air to pass through to the plants. Mulch can also be beneficial in creating paths through your landscape. Organic mulches, (bark, straw, pine needles, leaves, nut shells ect) are best because they add nutrients to the soil. Large landscape rocks can also help hold moisture in the soil.

Maintenance

A xeriscaped yard requires less maintenance than a traditional yard. Pruning, trimming dead branches, can stimulate plant growth. Use natural methods of pest control, as chemicals can kill beneficial insects. Bees and many insects are needed for pollination. To reduce unwanted insects you can use insecticidal soaps or install bird and bat houses around your yard. Natural pesticides also include Neem oil, salt spray, mineral oil, citrus oil, cayenne pepper, Eucalyptus oil, onion and garlic spray and many more. Native plants are adapted to your local soil so do not need fertilizer.

In conclusion, what is needed is a commitment by each homeowner to lessen the burden on our Mother Earth. You can start small with a portion of your lawn if a large project seems too intimidating. The important thing is to make a move in the right direction, either large or small!

Xeriscape for a healthy planet!


Leave a comment

The Origin of Lawns and Their Environmental Impact

“We should all know by now that lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment.”

By Linn Smith

May 10,2017—Lawns are not a natural part of our environment. Lawns originated around the 16th century as grassy fields around English and French castles. Trees were cut down around the castles, leaving only grassy fields that would reveal an enemy coming forth in the wide open spaces. When the trees were cut, the grasses and flowers sprouted naturally, creating a meadow. “Lawn” originated from the word Launde, which means an opening in the woods. The moist climate of Europe supported these grassy meadows which eventually became our lawns of today.

Origination of the Lawn

The castles created meadows, “lawns”, to watch for
approaching enemies.

The History of Grass Lawns

“Grass” is from the plant family Gramineae, which has over 9000 species of plants. In the late 16th century “grass” lawns became fashionable, rapidly catching on among the wealthy. In 16th and 17th centuries lawns were mostly wildflowers and herbs such as chamomile.

Gardeners maintained the lawn with a scythe

Only the wealthy could afford lawn care.

Until the 19th century, mowing consisted of a scythe, shears for edge trimming, a gardener to maintain the lawns, and/or cattle and sheep grazing around the estates. In the 18th century this was a sign of the wealth, the vast lawn showing the amount of wealth of the owner (reminds me of Jane Austin novels)–lawns implied a staff and servants with scythes, shears and edging irons.

Mowers: Creating Easier Lawn Maintenace

In 1870 the push mower was invented, and in 1919 the gasoline mower allowed for much less effort in maintaining a lawn. (A note of interest: during World War 1, Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep, about fifty, cutting the White House lawn, which saved manpower during the war. He sold their wool to the Red Cross.)

When the suburbs sprouted up in the U.S. after the war, the architects created lawns around homes, which increased the value of the house and was inviting to the post war families who enjoyed lawn games of croquet, badminton, ect. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, houses were sold with lawns already in place. With the gasoline mower and the sprinkler system, the lawns were easily maintained.

The Downside of the Beautiful Lawn

So, here’s the downside of our beautiful, European lawns today: In an article on Smithsonian.com, Sarah Zielinski says it nicely, “We should all know by now that lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment. Keeping turf from turning brown wastes water, people use too many pesticides and herbicides, toxic chemicals that contaminate the fish we eat and water we drink. And mowing burns fossil fuels, releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Plus nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere with fertilization!”

And one more negative impact of our nice lawns–we are harming the bee population which we depend so heavily on for pollinating the wonderful foods we love! So, unless you are maintaining your lawn with only a scythe, push mower or sheep, maybe it’s time to rethink what we plant in our yards!

Xeriscaping:  The Green Lawn

Xeriscaping can reduce cost and care of lawns.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a water conserving method that orginated in Colorado. It originated from the Greek word “Xero”, which means dry and “Scape” meaning view. It does not mean zero landscaping. It does mean planting plants that will do well with little watering. The plants are not necessarily native to the area, but are selected for their water conserving abilities. Xeriscaping makes more water available to the community and the environment and reduces maintenance, with just occasional weeding and mulching. Less cost and less maintenance leaves more time for other things! Xeriscaping also reduces water pollution, as herbicides and pesticides don’t end up in the groundwater.

New Mexico has been planting the most beautiful yards using water conserving plants for centuries! It’s time to rethink our beautiful lawns and think about creating beautiful Xeriscaped yards instead!

Lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment!


Leave a comment

Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?

An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green


Leave a comment

Pollution and Child Labor: The Tanneries of Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Bangladesh and Child Labor

By Linn Smith

March 26, 2017—-Following is a recent article concerning Bangladesh, child labor and the polluting tanneries published by the Associated Press.

 In a Planet Earth Weekly article, May 2014, Bangladesh: The Poster Child for Climate Change https://planetearth5.com/?s=bangladesh I recieved the following comment about the tanneries from Solid Bangla, a newspaper in Bangladesh:

solid bangla..
June 18, 2014 at 1:54 am
Such a good article. Bangladesh is going through its most difficult time and things seem to get worse. Climate change will severely affect Bangladesh for sure and also the rise in tanneries and unregulated brick fields are ruining the environment so badly. Corrupt politicians can not see this as most of them are uneducated and corrupt. But thanks for identifying some good and concerning sides. Good job and good luck to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh

Tanneries, child labor and pollution

The Polluting Tanneries of Bangladesh Mar 24, 11:37 AM EDT
BY MARTHA MENDOZA AND JULHAS ALAM
ASSOCIATED PRESS

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a nonprofit group that investigates supply chains says.

The report by New York-based Transparentem, released to The Associated Press on Friday, didn’t say leather from the tanneries ends up in American and European companies’ products, only that the manufacturers of some of those goods receive it.

Some companies say they’re certain the leather used to make their products was imported from outside Bangladesh, and the manufacturers concur. Still, in response to the report most brands had switched factories, banned Bangladesh leather or demanded improvements and audits.

The abuses alleged have long plagued Hazaribagh, a Dhaka neighborhood that’s the hub of Bangladesh’s leather industry with more than 150 tanneries. The air is noxious with an eye-stinging rotten-egg odor, and children play on small hills of rotting hide trimmings. The Buriganga River, a source of drinking water for 180,000 people, shimmers with poisons from tannery chemical runoff, as well as other human and industrial waste.

The $1 billion-a-year industry was ordered to shut down and move more than 15 years ago, but deadlines have passed without consequence and fines go unpaid. Last week, Bangladesh’s High Court told authorities to stop supplying gas, water and electricity to the tanneries. Rawhide supplies have also been ordered halted.

And yet they’re still in business, fueled by consumer demand for ever-more-stylish but low-priced wallets and boots.

Child labor of Bangladesh

Tanneries of Bangladesh

Transparentem uses investigative journalism practices to tackle labor and environmental abuses, producing detailed reports that are privately shared with companies involved. The group gives companies time to respond before sharing its findings with investors, regulators, advocacy organizations or journalists.

Its confidential Hazaribagh report and accompanying video, shared late last year with about a dozen U.S. and European brands and companies, showed workers at five different tanneries bent double under the weight of soaking wet cow hides, shuffling past heavy machinery delivering heavy loads. Workers are seen whipping handheld razors through leather, tossing off loose trimmings. Barrels of chemicals lean against walls. The floor is wet, and some workers are barefoot.

Bangladesh law prohibits workers under 18, but some appeared to be teenagers. The report says that in 2015, a mother confirmed her child working in a tannery was 14. Footage from 2016 showed the child was still working there. On the video, a 17-year-old told the videographer his age. And there’s 2016 footage of two workers agreeing that there are 15-year-olds onsite.

Transparentem is not publishing its findings but showed the video to an AP reporter before sharing the report. It said the discretion was needed to protect its investigators and the workers, and that the research is ongoing.

Bangladesh child labor

Tanneries, pollution and child labor

The nonprofit said its Hazaribagh team tracked leather first-hand and with corporate reports from two tanneries, Apex Tannery Ltd. and Bay Tannery Ltd., to Bangladesh shoemakers Apex Footwear and Bay Footwear. Apex Tannery also sent leather to South Korean leather dealer White Industries, said the report. From White, Transparentem tracked leather to Simone Accessories, a South Korean handbag maker.

Using customs records and business documents, they found those factories make shoes and purses for Clarks, Coach, Kate Spade, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Sears, Steven Madden and Timberland. Also included were Germany-based Deichmann, a shoe and sportswear chain, and two U.S. firms – Harbor Footwear Group and Genesco – which design and market shoes in even more brands.

No one followed a piece of leather produced by a child to a particular purse or shoe.

E. Benjamin Skinner, founder and principal of Transparentem, said the group investigates endemic problems within an industry, and looked into Apex and Bay because they are among the largest.

“We tell brands and retailers what they may not, but should, know about those with whom they do business. This gives them the opportunity to use their influence with their suppliers to address questionable activity and advance positive action,” Skinner said.

The American and European brands that responded to queries from the AP stated their commitments to prevent labor abuse in manufacturing. But some brands, the Bangladeshi companies involved and industry officials disputed the report’s findings.

“That NGO went to our buyers too,” said Shahin Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Tanners’ Association. “They showed them some video clips of child workers who are engaged in manufacturing some byproducts. … They are no way part of the main industry, I can challenge anybody.”

Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear and a director at the Apex Tannery, calls Hazaribagh “an environmental disaster” and said they’ll soon close their plant there. But he said the report is a “smear campaign,” allegations of child labor are unsubstantiated, and Hazaribagh leather doesn’t end up in exported products.

Manzur said Apex Footwear and Apex Tannery are separate entities, although they have some owners in common and are associated businesses. He said Apex Footwear has two separate shoe-making factories, one for local markets and another, across the street, for exports. The Hazaribagh leather goes only to the local factory, he said.

Bay Footwear technical adviser Rezaur Rahman, speaking for Bay Group, which includes their tannery, called Transparentem’s findings “absolutely baseless.”

“We worked with the International Labor Organization and trade unions. I don’t understand how and where they found child workers in the industry,” Rahman said. “We don’t have any child workers.”

Coach – whose website says their produce is “handcrafted from the finest American and European hides and textiles” – said they get no more than 1.5 percent of their leather from Hazaribagh and Kate Spade said they get just 1 percent. Both said they’re stopping any purchases from Hazaribagh.

Michael Kors and Harbor Footwear said they were a few steps removed from the Hazaribagh tanneries, hadn’t knowingly sourced leather there, and would make sure not to.

Clarks and Deichmann said they are certain no Hazaribagh leather ended up in their products.

Deichmann said Apex Footwear only makes their shoes with imported leather or hides processed at Apex Gazipur tannery that they’ve audited.

A Clarks spokesman said the company “is only responsible for the sourcing of materials in our own products and cannot control the sourcing of others.”

Sears, Timberland, Macy’s, Genesco and Steven Madden all said that while they weren’t getting leather from the tanneries, they saw an opportunity to use their companies’ leverage at the related factories to bring improvements, with some using threats, others offering auditors and support.

Attorneys representing Apex Footwear and Macy’s, Steven Madden and Genesco signed an agreement last month that says Apex will verify that all tannery workers are adults using protective gear, and that independent auditors would oversee longer-term improvements.

Steve Park, sales director at White Industry Co., said the South Korean company stopped using raw materials from Bangladesh late last year after U.S. clients such as Coach, Michael Kors and Kate Spade informed them about environmental problems and child labor issues. Now they use American, Brazilian and Pakistani suppliers, he said.

Scott Nova at the Worker Rights Consortium in Washington, D.C., said a brand or retailer that is serious about protecting worker rights, and about honoring its public commitments to do so, would not do business with a factory that sources from suppliers that engage in dangerous and abusive practices.

“This principle applies, whether or not leather from the tanneries in question is being used in a brand’s products,” he said.

Global brands are drawn to manufacturing in Bangladesh by low wages, and leather shoes, belts and purses are top exports. But many Bangladeshi manufacturers depend on domestic tanneries for their leather, and 90 percent of those tanneries are in Hazaribagh.

Conditions in the neighborhood are deplorable. Chemicals and defecation run milky-white through open sewers, pouring untreated into the river, more of a waste pond than a waterway. Metal tarnishes quickly; electronics corrode.

Tannery workers live in small, hot, steel-walled rooms perched on precarious stilts above creeks of raw sewage and mounds of stinking scraps.

AP journalists were not allowed inside Apex and Bay’s Hazaribagh tanneries, but workers walking out said no children were employed there now.

Reporters did find children working in smaller Hazaribagh tanneries not mentioned by Transparentem. The work is hazardous, with large equipment and little to none of the protective clothing, splash aprons, safety goggles and respirators mandatory at North American and European tanneries.

The AP team watched as a man tasted liquid from a drum that processes leather to test for salt levels.

“We would hope to avoid the harm that can be caused by the liquid when the body and the limbs are exposed to it,” said another Hazaribagh leather tanner, Mohammed Harun, 52. “There are some powders and chemicals that infect us when inhaled.”

He said they need boots, gloves and masks.

“If the owners provide us with these things, it will improve the situation,” he said.

A British Medical Journal study published this week found that Bangladeshi tannery workers as young as 8 frequently have untreated rashes and infections, as well as asthma and other lung problems. Pure Earth – a nongovernmental organization that addresses industrial pollution – has put Hazaribagh on its Top 10 list of polluted places, along with Chernobyl. Similar problems exist at tannery clusters in the Philippines and India.

Human Rights Watch advocate Richard Pearhouse, who has reported on pollution and child labor at Hazaribagh tanneries, said none comply with national environmental laws or repeated court orders to move.

American shoppers can make a difference, he said.

“Consumers should be asking plenty of sharp questions on the shop floor about what retailers are doing to guarantee they are not sourcing leather from Hazaribagh’s toxic tanneries,” he said.

Banladesh tanneries: child labor and pollution


Leave a comment

Grameen Shakti: One of The World’s Fastest Growing Renewable Energy Companies

Renewables in Bangladesh

Shakti provides solar for rural areas.

“Sustainable Energy: Entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far better than business as usual.”

By Linn Smith

February 10, 2017—-Founded in 1996 in Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti has installed over 5 million solar home systems and created over 100,000 clean energy jobs. Grameen Shakti was set up as a not-for-profit in 1996 to bring modern energy services to households, by providing both energy technology (solar-home-systems for electricity, improved stoves and biogas for cooking) and affordable finance, at a local level.

Renewable Energy

Shakti provides solar for small businesses.

Solar in Rural Bangladesh

In Bangledesh 80% of the population lives in rural areas, which is where Grameen Shakti gets its name—translation is “rural energy”. Nearly half of rural Bangladesh becomes islands during the rainy season as snow melts in the Himalayas, rushing through the countryside to the Indian Ocean. Income varies among the populations with many people finding solar out of reach because of low income. Obtaining solar would equal the entirety of several months wages for some people.

Grameen Shakti

Solar power is provided for rural Bangladesh.

Creating Rural Supply Chains for Solar

Shakti focuses its solar energy towards what the customer needs, and makes plans with the rural people to pay for it with very affordable loans. In an article by Nancy Wimmer, director of microSOLAR, she states, “Shakti meets this challenge by creating rural supply chains and after-sales service. Its engineers and technicians live, work and are trained on the job in the villages. They become part of the community, keep in close contact with their customers, and make sure the solar systems are in good repair and running properly. If there is a problem, Shakti is on site to solve it – even in times of disaster. Shakti sent young, motivated engineers into the hinterland to set up its first branches. They won the trust of the villagers, trained village technicians, managed all financing, solar installations and maintenance. This laid the groundwork for Shakti’s quality service and steady growth, but it took years to develop.” Shakti now has 1500 branch offices in every district of Bangledesh, and has trained mostly women as engineers.

Grameen Shakti

Shakti provides Bangladesh with solar power.

Solar and Biogas: Creating Clean Energy

Today Grameen Shakti has reached nearly 8 million rural dwellers, with not only solar but also biogas plants, which are produced by the breakdown of organic matter such as agricultural waste, manure sewage or food waste. It has also provided over 600,000 energy efficient cook stoves to rural areas.

Wimmer also states, “There are no silver bullets for solving the many problems facing traditional rural societies, but entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far better than business as usual. Shakti succeeds in such a tough business because it has found a way to provide affordable services and financing to a million village customers with microcredit.”

Shakti: Moving Towards a Low Carbon Vison

Shakti is a winner of the Ashden award, which supports sustainable energy trailblazers that focus on a world where everyone has access to affordable, clean energy. The Ashden awards recipients are encouraged to move closer towards a low carbon vision through tangible, powerful examples to inspire others to act by providing the winners finance, publicity, and research.

Grameen Shakti: Doing what it can, where it can to create a healthier planet!